ST. LOUIS - South Florida claimed the championship of the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic by defeating Saint Louis 25-20, 25-21, 27-25 Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena.
The loss snapped SLU's winning streak at four and dropped the Billikens to 5-5. South Florida improved to 4-5.
South Florida, Southeast Missouri State and Saint Louis each went 2-1 in the tournament. USF earned first place with an 8-4 overall set record, followed by SEMO (7-5) and SLU (6-5). Evansville finished fourth.
Grace Bonoma led the Billikens with 12 digs and two service aces and was named to the seven-player All-Tournament team. The junior libero had team highs of 54 digs (4.91 per set) and five service aces in three tournament matches.Aleksandra Niemiec had seven kills, while Lauren Baumet and Cassie Clarke tallied six kills apiece. Clarke added 28 assists and tied Lindsey Dinkelacker for team-high honors with nine digs.
Carly Marcum registered seven blocks, Megan Gilbert had four blocks and Andrea Bolt collected eight digs.Saint Louis erased a four-point deficit and tied set one at 13 and 15. But a 5-0 run put South Florida in front 20-15, and the Bulls went on to win by that same five-point margin.
USF jumped out to a 6-1 advantage in set two and went on to build a seven-point cushion. SLU rallied late but would get no closer than three.
The Billikens owned a 16-12 lead in set three, only to see South Florida surge ahead 22-20. SLU pulled even at 22, then fought off two match points for a 24-24 deadlock and another match point for a 25-25 stalemate. However, USF scored the next two points to clinch the set and match victories.
Saint Louis plays its final regular-season tournament of the year next weekend, traveling to Evanston, Ill., to compete in Northwestern's Wildcat Classic. The Billikens will face Northwestern, Western Michigan and Delaware.